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Driver Apologizes For Starting Fire At San Bernardino Gas Station

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SAN BERNARDINO (CBS) — A dramatic explosion at a 76 station in San Bernardino after a man backed into a pump was caught on video.

Anil Kumar, who owns the station, says he’s only ever seen explosions like that in the movies, “like ‘Terminator.'”

“I’ve been here for 33 years and this is the first time I’ve seen something like this in my life,” he told CBS2/KCAL9.

gas station fire Driver Apologizes For Starting Fire At San Bernardino Gas Station

Police say the driver backed into the gas pump and ignited it. The station’s surveillance system shows the scene from several angles.

The video shows the man parking to pump his gas, then hitting a post. He then tries to drive off and nearly hits a pedestrian.

“I don’t think he was very responsible, you know, if he did that at least he should stay,” Kumar said.

Then he backs into a pump and it bursts into flames — which is when he just drives off.

Other angles show people panicking and running, plus one person actually filling up at the pump that caught fire.

Another angle showed a man pushing a small boy to safety, then grabbing the hose out of his tank and racing off without finishing his fill-up. He later returned to ask for a refund.

The driver, Phillip McCowan, said he panicked when he saw the fire. He went home and called paramedics for a gash in his leg.

McCowan said he was sorry for the damage he caused to Kumar’s station.

“I’d like to tell him I’m sorry for what happened, you know, my gas pedal got stuck so I couldn’t stop the car…and that was it. But I want to apologize to that man,” McCowan told KCAL9 reporter Jeff Nguyen in an interview at his home Monday night.

Witnesses said McCowan appeared disoriented at the time.

“Yeah, I had a couple of beers…about an hour and a half [before the crash],” McCowan said.

McCowan said he fled the scene because he suffered a gash to his leg and he wanted to get to a hospital quickly. He later called paramedics for the injury and that’s how law enforcement determined he was the driver behind the fire.

Because of the extent of the damage, McCowan could face felony hit-and-run charges.

No other injuries were reported.

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